Angola was recently shaken by terrible news of abandoned, ill-treated, tortured and killed children accused of witchcraft. One of the recent cases was in the municipality of Sambizanga in Luanda. According to local newspapers, the National Police rescued dozens of children who were locked inside a room where a bonfire was lit burning jindungo (a type of chilli). One of them faces the danger of losing an arm due to gangrene caused by blade cuts. The abusers believe that through this method the evil living in the children's bodies can be released.
This evil practice is usually promoted by members of certain “churches”, which in most cases are illegally open to the public. Driven by a mystical, malicious, ignorant spirit or simply by the desire to get rid of one more mouth to feed, family members are primarily responsible for such attitudes. By believing in witchcraft, they condemn their sons, nephews or stepchildren to appalling suffering when something goes wrong in their homes.
Blog Angola Saudades brings one of these sad cases to light:
“Makiesse é sobrevivente de um fenómeno perturbante que surge em Angola nos ultimos anos: acusações de feitiçaria contra crianças acompanhadas de maus tratos, abandono e nalguns casos, a morte. A madrasta acusou Makiesse de ser feiticeiro e ter provocado a doença que matou o seu pai. Não podia comer com a família, dormia na latrina, levava porrada diariamente e era forçado a rituais de purificação que mais parecem tortura – jejum, golpes e reclusão. Makiesse tinha seis anos. “Eu dizia que eu não sou feiticeiro, que talvez o feiticeiro usa a minha cara à noite. Mas ninguém acreditava”, conta Makiesse ao PlusNews. Um dia os familiares deitaram-lhe petróleo. O tio impediu que o queimassem vivo. Cedo, tirou-o sorrateiramente do Uíge para a capital Luanda a 345 quilómetros. Deixou-o num centro da igreja católica que abriga crianças de rua. Isso foi há três anos. Makiesse apenas foi visitado duas vezes pelo irmão mais velho”.
A few years ago, a study on the impact of such practices against children from the perspective of human rights’ protection, carried out by the National Institute of Children (INAC), was released. The study reported that such charges against children became common at the end of the 90's, with no relation to local peoples’ historical traditions. According to the study, the appearance for this type of attitude is due to the changes in family structure and in the meaning of kinship relationships, such as maternal ties and their respective connection with taking care of children.
In Angola, accusations of witchcraft and abuse against children are deemed valid, which minimizes the seriousness of cruel acts carried out by families in the eyes of society. After being charged, children rarely reintegrate themselves within their families because of stigma and discrimination. This brings us to another issue: the increase of street children. Feeling uncomfortable under accusing glances from relatives and neighbors, they opt to live on their own on the streets of this country.
Noticias Cristãs [pt] blog echoes another case:
“Doze crianças acusadas de feitiçaria e abandonadas pelos seus familiares foram retiradas das ruas de Luanda pelas Irmãs da Congregação do Bom Pastor. As histórias contadas pelas crianças que fizeram das ruas da capital a sua morada durante algum tempo, comoveram as freiras que decidiram começar um processo de nova vida para os menores. O caso mais recente é de uma menina de 11 anos acusada de ter morto a própria mãe usando feitiço. A superiora da congregação conta a história: “O pai abandonou a criança na rua e na altura foi interceptado pela polícia porque batia nela e ele disse que a filha tem 11 anos e é feiticeira. Disse que comeu a mãe e que recebeu o feitiço do Congo e que ele poderia ter a mesma sorte e então decidiu abandonar a menina. A criança foi levada para casa das irmãs no Palanca, por alguém que a encontrou a chorar na rua. Fui ter à casa onde eles moravam e encontrei alguns familiares, mas todos eles confirmaram que a menina é feiticeira. Conversei com eles, tentei convencê-los mas não houve maneira e disseram que era melhor não deixar a menina com eles porque estava reconhecida como feiticeira”.
The government and civil organizations have launched campaigns to raise awareness and alerts to prevent abuse against children. Other projects such as sheltering centers and legal accountability for such abuse are two other important developments being carried out by authorities.
Hopefully, the situation will change completely. We hope children will be able to enjoy their childhood peacefully in Angola without losing hope of a better life. Hopefully, Angolan society will stand up with determination in this fight that has already crossed national boundaries. We hope parents and relatives of victims of abuse are held accountable and brought to court as a sign of warning to others.
Wow. I’m sure child abuse exists in all societies. I’ve certainly read equally gruesome stories in the American press all the time, but the attempt to rationalize it on the community level with a story of witch craft is really disturbing. Poor kids.
I just wanted to stop by and tell you thank you for caring enough to write about this issue. People need to know it is not right to abuse or harm children. The information above is horrible and may heart breaks for those children. As I have read your blog I was encouraged that I am not alone in this fight to help orphaned and abandoned children. I am the Director of Public Relations for a non-profit organization called World Orphans. We build church based orphan homes all over the world and our mission is simple E3 to reach each church…each child…each community. I would love for you to take a look at our website and let me know if you have any questions. (www.worldorphans.com) thank you again for your heart and words that you have written. I hope you will have a glorious blessed day!
Jenna M. Howard
-Director of Public Relations
thank you for your comment. I believe this kind of situation must be known around the world. Children are our future and how can we have a future if we torture and murder them? There is a lot to be done regarding this issue. Society and government must hold hands in order to put an end to this horrible situation. And that goes for a number of things like, working children, prostitution and so on…
I will take a look at your website.
Have a nice day…
While the claims of \witchcraft\ are the direct causes of the abhorrent violence and neglect towards these children, the sickness and poverty these families have to deal with has to be a contributing factor. I can’t imagine the physical and emotional scarring these children will have to deal with for the rest of their lives.